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British Airways: the Anti-Nestle of Social Media Campaigns

When strikes brought transportation to a halt in Britain earlier this month, British Airways made full use of its social media presence to assist stranded passengers as best as possible - as well as providing a boost to its brand.

CEO Willie Walsh provided updates in a series of videos about the impact of the strike while apologizing for the inconvenience. These received more than 100,000 hits on YouTube and BA.com, according to Marketing Magazine, and improved perceptions of the British Airways brand among 19% of the people who had seen them.

Contrast with Nestle

The social media approach to crisis management, which British Airways says was part of a detailed contingency plan it had developed before the strike dates were announced, stands in stark contrast to inept manner in which Nestle handled its own crisis - an attack by Greenpeace against it on YouTube and then its Facebook page.

The irony is that Nestle almost immediately agreed to stop the sourcing activities that prompted the attacks in the first place. But that message was lost amid the protests, then criticisms of how it handled the complaints.

Plan in Advance What to Say, How to Say It

The lesson of these two examples is to determine in advance how you will respond to a crisis from a social media perspective as well as the standard contingency and PR planning. That includes determining what tone to take, says Chris Davies, British Airways' head of digital marketing, who tells Marketing Magazine that many brands' social media approach is fundamentally flawed. "You have to understand what people want to hear. Brands that attempt to dictate will end up agitating consumers. You also have to add value."

Nestle could have taken more time to consider its statement, said Robin Grant, managing director of social media agency at We Are Social (via New Media Age). "People went to Twitter and Facebook to engage with the brand because its statement was too vague. What it needs to do now is try to engage in a meaningful discussion and answer questions."

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